Two weeks ago (July 6), a heated debate on the India-Singapore Comprehensive Economic Cooperation Agreement (ECSC) erupted in Parliament with the People’s Action Party (PAP) crossing swords with the Progress Party of Singapore (PSP).
PSP Non-Constituent Parliament Member (NCMP) Leong Mun Wai raised more questions about Singapore’s foreign worker policies after PAP Ministers Ong Ye Kung and Tan See Leng made their official statements concerning the charges against the ECSC.
Mr. Léong refused to back down despite the fact that Ong urged him more than once during the debate to admit that some of PSP’s statements about CECA were false.
“The point of this statement is that I know the PSP is preparing for a debate on the motions, but I also hope that we all enter the debate with common ground… let’s put the lies aside… and don’t. let’s not bring in the motion, ”said Ong. Nonetheless, Mr. Leong did not back down.
ST criticizes the PSP
Today Grace Ho, senior political correspondent for The Straits Times, decided to write an opinion piece to further criticize Mr Leong (‘Ceca is not a four letter word ‘, July 18).
She said that amid Singapore’s increasingly complex challenges, the last thing Singapore needs is unconstructive circularity in the trade pact debate. “PSP’s refusal to go back on its past statements is troubling,” she said.
Praising the 2 ministers, Ms. Ho wrote, “I thought that Minister of Health Ong Ye Kung – a former trade negotiator – and Minister of Manpower Tan See Leng provided useful facts and gave a precise orientation on the functioning of Ceca.
She cited how Singapore has long relied on foreign labor to overcome its human capital limitations since the 1980s. “In the 1980s, programs to attract skilled labor here included the Professional Information and Placement Service and the Committee to Attract Talent to Singapore, ”she said.
“Later, an international workforce division was established within the Ministry of Manpower (MOM) to oversee Contact Singapore offices in cities around the world and attract foreign talent to work. here.
The efforts have paid off, she said, citing a 2016 Institute of Policy Studies (IPS) study that found that the number of net migration “increased dramatically” in 2005 and peaked in 2008. This has helped counteract falling birth rates in Singapore, she noted.
Ms Ho went on to say that no amount of data can prevent some people from seeing the ECSC as inherently suspect.
“Knowing this, and also knowing how racist the public discourse on Ceca is, PSP’s refusal to go back on its past statements is disturbing,” she criticized PSP.
Incorporating trade into its argument, she warned, “This creates a dangerous dynamic for Singapore, which relies on trade to expand its economic space and improve the flexibility of its labor market. Already, some investors and foreign residents think Singapore is anti-foreign.
She stressed that the bottom line is this: The ECSC does not interfere with the powers of the Singaporean authorities to decide whether foreigners can enter and live here.
The number of Indian PE professionals soared from 2005 after the signing of CECA
It is indeed true that there are no legal clauses within the ECSC obliging Singapore to leave a certain number or even free rein to Indian professionals to work here.
However, it is interesting to note that, as Minister Tan admitted, the proportion of Indian professionals rose from 14 percent in 2005 to 25 percent last year among all PE holders in Singapore.
That is, among the nearly 200 countries on Earth today, 25 percent of all foreign PE professionals working in Singapore came from one country – India. And this explosion in the growth of Indian professionals working here happened just after the CECA was signed in 2005.
And if we were to put the numbers in real numbers, the growth is not double (100%) like in 14% to 25% like what ST had previously reported, but in fact 486 percent of 9,100 to 44,250.
Minister Tan Explain in Parliament that this “increase” in the number of Indian professionals here is attributed to “the rapid growth of Singapore’s digital economy, rather than the result of more favorable treatment for Indian PE holders due to the ECSC “.
And speaking of the “tech talent” needed by Singapore’s digital economy, HackerRank, a global technology recruiting platform to assess the skills of IT developers, conducted a study some time ago to see which country has the best computer programmers and developers.
As part of the study, HackerRank ranked over 1.5 million IT developers who were involved in solving complex coding issues on its site. The ranking was based on factors such as accuracy and speed.
India’s IT developers were found to be ranked 31st in terms of talent, with people from 30 other countries beating those from India. Even Singapore was ranked 13th in the world ahead of India.
In addition, no figures were provided by ministers on how the local Singaporean workforce has benefited from the ECSC.
Conversely, according to figures shown in United Nations data, the number of Singaporeans living in India has declined since 2005 instead of the growth expected if the CECA had enabled Singaporeans to access a larger market, such as The ST article seems to have suggested it in its early days.